Julia's Hand-Rolled Cavatelli With Clams + 'Nduja

Invite the family round for Sunday lunch because Julia Busuttil Nishimura has whipped up another crowd-pleasing recipe to serve; hand-rolled cavatelli with clams and ‘nduja.

This heart-warming dish combines all the best things; hand-made pasta (if you please), fresh seafood and smoky, spicy ‘nduja (a spreadable spiced pork sausage). The perfect cold-weather remedy!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Julia’s delicious (and hand-rolled) cavatelli with clams and nduja! Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Julia used a gnocchi board to create the ridged cavatelli. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Hand-rolling pasta is the best weekend activity – and immensely satisfying when you eventually get to eat it! Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The perfect Sunday lunch! Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Serve topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
26th of May 2022

When the weekend rolls around, there is nothing more I enjoy than sitting at my kitchen bench and rolling a little bit of pasta. Cavatelli has to be one of my absolute favourite shapes to make, as it requires no special equipment and is an incredibly satisfying process. While I’ve used a gnocchi board here to create ridged cavatelli, you can absolutely roll and flick the little pieces of dough directly onto your board to create smooth cavatelli. If you’re not up for making your own pasta, simply substitute it with a dried pasta of your choice.

The sauce I’ve paired it with today is so full of flavour and has a really good kick to it. That’s thanks to the ‘nduja (en-DOO-ya), a spicy spreadable pork sausage from Calabria in southern Italy. It’s fiery but also really smoky and just gives this sauce so much depth. It also happens to go really well with seafood like squid, prawns and clams, as I’ve used here. It’s available from most Italian delis but if you can’t find any, simply add some dried chilli flakes along with the garlic at the beginning of the cooking. It won’t be the same by any means, but will at least provide a little heat.

Ask your fishmonger if the clams are already sand-free. If not, you will have to purge them at home. About 30 minutes before I am ready to cook with them, I sit the clams in a bowl and cover them with cold water and a good three-fingered pinch of salt. The clams should open a little and release their sand to the bottom of the bowl. After 30 minutes, drain and the clams are now ready to cook with.

The crunchy breadcrumbs are salty and delicious and are in lieu of parmesan cheese – so keep this in mind when seasoning the sauce too. Once you have all of your ingredients, it really is a very enjoyable and lovely recipe to make, perfect for Sunday lunch or when you have some time to slow down in the kitchen.

Julia says the secret to getting depth in the sauce is the nduja (pronounced en-DOO-ya), a spicy, spreadable pork sausage. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Hand Rolled Cavatelli with Clams and ‘Nduja

(Serves 4)

Pasta dough

400 g semola (finely ground semolina flour), plus extra to dust
Sea salt
200ml warm water

Clam and ‘nduja sauce 

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed gently with the side of a knife
4 parsley stalks
25 g ‘nduja, crumbled
400 g cherry tomatoes
1kg clams/pipis, purged and drained
100ml dry white wine
Large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Sea salt

Crunchy breadcrumbs

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
60g breadcrumbs


To make the pasta dough, tip the flour onto a clean work surface and mix with a large pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, slowly pour in most of the water and use your hands to slowly bring the flour into the centre, mixing until you have a rough dough. If  the dough feels too wet, add a little more flour. If it feels too dry, sprinkle over some more warm water. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. As the dough becomes smooth, it is important to clean down your work surface and hands, then continue to knead. Cover with an upturned bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Working with a small amount of dough at a time, roll pieces of the dough into long ropes, around 5 mm in thickness. Make sure any dough not being used remains covered to stop it from drying out. Cut each rope into lengths around 1.5cm long and use your thumb to drag each piece down a gnocchi board to make little ridged cavatelli. Place the cavatelli onto a tea towel that is generously dusted with semolina flour. Repeat with the remaining dough and set aside.

For the crunchy breadcrumbs, warm the olive oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden. Transfer to a plate and season with salt. Set aside.

For the sauce, warm the olive oil in a large pan over a low-medium heat and add the garlic and parsley stalks. This is going to infuse the oil nicely. When you begin to smell the garlic and parsley (around 1-2 minutes), add the ‘nduja and break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes are beginning to soften and release their juices.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the clams along with the wine. Stir well then cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the clams have opened, shaking the pan every so often to mix. Season with salt to taste, if necessary.

Meanwhile, cook the cavatelli in a large pot of salted boiling water, until chewy but not chalky, around 3-4 minutes. Drain the cavatelli, reserving some of the cooking water. Transfer the cavatelli to the pan with the clams and simmer for 1-2 minutes so the pasta is well coated, stirring frequently. If the sauce is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen. Stir through the parsley and serve topped with the crunchy breadcrumbs.

What else I’m eating…

I was recently in Sydney and it was so fun to be out and about eating at different spots! No matter what pops up though, I always return to old favourites. 10 William St is one of them. The pretzel and whipped bottarga, panzerotti,  barramundi with fresh borlotti beans, and to finish, spoonfuls of tiramisù. Such a delight! 

What else I’m cooking with…

I love making textural salads full of different vegetables like radicchio, fennel, celery and chicory. Dressed with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a little salt, I am very happy.

Click here to download recipe printout!

Click here to download recipe printout!

Recent Food